The desire to get inside the human mind — to understand, to judge and, ultimately, to control other people’s inner lives — is not new. Science, religion and those in power down the centuries have made inferences about the thoughts and beliefs of individuals and groups and sought to manipulate or punish. What has changed in recent years is the pace and ubiquitous nature of technological and scientific developments that are specifically designed to get inside our heads.
Technology that is designed to read human beings’ inner lives and to change them raises serious concerns about the effective protection of the forum internum — and it is everywhere. Emotion recognition technology can be used to predict a person’s state of mind. That information can be used to change how they think, feel and, ultimately, behave. It can also be used to make predictions on criminal activity or as evidence in legal proceedings. Researchers claim to be able to read our sexual orientation or political opinion from biometric data, which, in some parts of the world, can have dire consequences for people.
CIGI Senior Fellow and international human rights lawyer Susie Alegre explains the importance of protecting our inner thoughts from technology’s encroachment. Freedom of thought is protected absolutely in international human rights law at the United Nations level. It includes the right to keep our thoughts private, the right not to have our thoughts manipulated and the right not to be penalized for our thoughts alone.
In this video, Alegre outlines the importance of protecting humanity’s inner freedom first and foremost when discussing all aspects of technology governance issues.